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What are Independent Schools?

Pennsylvania's and Delaware's independent schools are where...

  • children learn, lead, and achieve in accredited, mission driven, close-knit communities.
  • rigorous academic standards and artistic and athletic talents are valued.
  • need-based financial aid supports diverse - socio-economic and ethnic - student and family populations.
  • responsible citizenship is modeled and young people are expected to be good citizens.

What defines an Independent School?

A school is defined as independent if it is primarily supported by tuition, charitable contributions, and endowment income, not by tax or church funds, is independently governed by a board of trustees, practices nondiscriminatory policies, is accredited by the Corporation or the regional association, and is a non-profit, tax-exempt institution of the type described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. (Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools Bylaws Article 3; Section 3.1:)

Private independent schools are distinct from other non-public schools in that they are independently governed by a board of trustees and they are funded primarily through tuition, charitable contributions, and endowment revenue. Independent schools have unique missions; each school’s mission is shared among trustees, students, parents, faculty, and administrators. PAIS member independent schools are accountable to a state-recognized accrediting association and are accredited in lieu of licensure. Through the accreditation process, schools hold themselves publicly accountable to all who seek assurance that they meet accepted standards of educational quality, operation, and staff competence.

As part of the private school community, independent schools include coeducational, single-sex, and special focus institutions, as well as boarding and day schools. What independent schools share is a commitment to achieving excellence and inspiring innovation.

About Independent Schools

Independent schools are home to educational innovation. They teach young people academic skills and the importance of hard work, leadership, personal responsibility, and good citizenship. Each school features close-knit learning environments, challenging instruction, and safe communities.

Independent schools are also good neighbors and partners, making both social and economic contributions to their communities.

Distinctive Features of Independent Schools

Independent schools . . .

  • Provide an academically challenging environment for students that nurtures intellectual curiosity, stimulates personal growth, and encourages critical thinking.
  • Develop supportive learning environments, where service-learning, athletics, and the arts are as important as classroom lessons.
  • Motivate students to achieve excellence – in and out of the classroom.
  • Create a culture that ensures lifelong returns for students, including a commitment to community involvement, a heightened social responsibility, and an understanding of what it means to be a global citizen.
  • Attract high quality teachers who teach in their areas of expertise and are committed and passionate about what they do.
  • Encourage active participation of parents in their children’s education.
  • Contribute to the economic well-being of their local communities.
  • Partner with neighbors, local governments, public schools, and businesses.


Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS) 37 East Germantown Pike, Suite 302 • Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
610-567-2960 • Fax 610-567-2963

PAIS is an equal opportunity employer. PAIS and its member schools comply with all applicable laws and regulations regarding discrimination in admissions and employment.
PAIS is recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to accredit private schools in the State of Pennsylvania.
PAIS is nationally recognized through the National Association of Independent Schools Commission on Accreditation.

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